Canadian MP’s Hipster PDA

On BlackBerry-addicted Parliament Hill, NDP press secretary Ian Capstick turns heads with his newest organizational gadget: a stack of 3 x 5 index cards held together by a black bull clip.

His Hill-issued BlackBerry was starting to annoy him. He was drowning in unreliable notes at his desk. So when he stumbled upon a simple stack of index cards in a filing cabinet one day, he tried them out.

“I started to keep a few cards in my back pocket to write press requests on,” the 24-year-old says. “Soon, it evolved into a way to keep the entire day’s activities in order. Now, people are pretty used to seeing it in my hand.”

A month into using his new system, he found an on-line community at a blog called 43 Folders. There, the file-card-and-clip system has been dubbed the “hipster PDA.”

Zen and The Art of Ink Fade Testing

Editor’s Note: Leonardo left some intriguing results to his own pen fade testing in the comments of the Pen Freak post on my own Weblog. I felt this information was interesting enough to have Leonardo write up in detail, so his findings could receive more exposure on Journalisimo. Thanks Leonardo! — Mike Rohde

Important work notes on the wall of my cube were fading fast recently, so I decided to embark on a search for quality archival pens. All of the cheap ballpoint pens I’ve used in the past 5 years or so turn out to be faders, so I clearly needed to upgrade.

The first test-set was a card with black-pen writing, taped against a basement window for the South sun for a few weeks.

Set 1 (South window, 2 weeks)

The Zebra Sarasa and Jimnie pens were a lasting and deep black. However, they are a bit wide, even for the spec 0.7mm, run down fast, and take extra dry-time. The Sarasa is very hard to start after dis-use too. The capped Jimnie is better.

Fountain pen lovers might love the richness of Sarasa. If you can dip the tip in melting candle wax it will keep well.

The Rose-Art X500 is a pricier ball-point. It is not as dense as a gel, but the lines are small, and it hardly faded. Very nice! (for a ballpoint). Slight skip at work…not sure why.

The Pentel RSVP is a popular fancy ballpoint, and it was smooth and dense going on, but had almost completely faded away….oops! Not good for notes, methinks.

(Then I migrated to nicer pens for my tinier notes)

Set 2 (A card leaning against a fuorescent bulb, 10dy x 24hr)

The Pentel RSVP was faded badly… at this point, it was valuable as an indicator of how much light exposure there was. This was equivalent about a year on my cube wall.

The Sanford uni-ball Onyx is a popular gel office pen, very dense, and quick-drying. It takes some pressure to avoid skip until broken in, and bleeds slightly, but is a great deal if you want a cheap high-grade gel. Perhaps a bit thin for some. Anyway, its fade performance was good: still quite black, slight loss of a blue tossed in for noble looks.

The Pilot P-500: Nice steady lines, finer than other 0.5s! …a slight ‘pebbly feel’….this is the best for writing very small notes..long lines will blob..drying good. Fading: completely unaffected, like new.

Itoya XE-100PU “Xenon” writing: smooth, oily feel, nice! …angle-sensitive, and needs pressure. Density good for ballpoint. Tip wobbles a little. This means despite the small line, it is only really good for larger writing. Slightly smudgy…lefties beware. Fading: density stayed good, but a little of the loss-of-blue like the uni-ball. Small skips showed up.

Set 3 (5 days, fluorescent bulb touching card)

The benchmark RSVP pen was well-faded.
The Pilot G2 (an 0.5) has rock-steady blackness, no fade. Nice writing too: retractable with no tip wobble!! Not quite as tiny as P-500..close though.
Uni-ball Vision Exact (0.2) to the testing. More precise than onyx..nice. Liquid ink. Lasts super, in true Sanford style. It got juicy with 2 days of use though.. ..too bleedy for my little notes. Bummer. Good for moderate cursive, larger letters.
The uni-ball Signo micro 207 ..a nice smooth pen, if not as super skip-free as the P-500. Feel is great. No fading (added-on later, after 7 days testing).
Overall Personal Opinions

Cheap ballpoints are risky these days. A big exception is the uni-ball Onyx. well worth the step-up from 20 to about 50 cents each in bulk!!

The 0.7 uniball signo 207 (non-micro) is super-smooth and crisp… that’s my baby for retractable.

The P-500 is still unbeatable for tiny block-letters (hard on almost other all pens!)

The G2 is very nice, but it gets edged on precision by P-500 (its capped cousin) and by the signo on smoothness. If the P-500 cap gets annoying, I will shift the G2 0.5 — but not yet.

Notes: Sanford says capped pens are a bit easier to make skip-free than retractables… ink formulation. Also, larger Hallmark-type stores seem to carry nice pens.

A Review of Five Journals

I love journals. I love opening up a blank book and running my hands over the grain of the paper. I love surfing the internet seeking new and high. I love thinking about the great potential of a blank notebook. I love knowing that the same construction for notebooks today hasn’t really changed for seventeen hundred years. I love knowing that the words I capture may last another seventeen hundred years, to be read by a future I cannot even comprehend. Few share this strange and often expensive drive, but those that do know exactly the feeling I mean when we open the cover of a new notebook for the first time.

We like to think how much greater computers are than the written word, but any archivist will tell you, the only way to preserve our writings is to store them in the only reasonable medium proven to last for thousands of years: paper. Hard drives freeze. CD’s rot under the corrosive gas we all breathe. The internet runs on a delicate balance of precarious machines. Anyone who has tried to restore data from as short as ten years ago knows how hard it can be to recover old information. Yesterday I opened a book over fifty years old, seventeen years older than I am, and it looked as good as the day it came off the press. Books are the only reasonable way to store information.

For the past two years I have been a great fan of Moleskine plain pocket notebooks. I have carried one in my pocket for twenty four months. I have filled twelve of these books from cover to cover. I have a stockpile of nearly fifty blank ones, enough to last a good long while should the company ever change them or go out of business.

I have dabbled with other journals as well, however. This writing will describe my experiences with five different journals. We will start with my old favorite, the Moleskine.

Moleskine Plain Pocket Journal
180 Pages
$12 for a Plain Pocket Journal, cheaper in bulk.
7 cents Per Page

At seven cents a page, the Moleskine is a good value. It is very portable, very convenient, widely available in the US, and not too costly. The utility and durability make up for the heavy snob factor. Though the marketing lays it on a bit thick (you aren’t Van Gogh no matter what notebook you write in), the Moleskine is a favorite not just for the snob appeal but for true practicality.

The Moleskine is thread-bound, acid free, and has 180 blank pages of acid free paper though you can get grids, lined, and thicker sketchbook pages as well. It has an accordion pocket in the back and an elastic fastener.

The Moleskine plain pocket is a favorite of mine. In three months of heavy use, I have yet to have one fall apart on me. If I had to pick only one journal to ever write in, the Moleskine would be the one.

Renaissance Art Large Journal
216 Pages
39 Cents Per Page.

If snob factor is important, go no further than the Renaissance Art Journal. These journals use the soft-cover leather wrap common to medieval style journals. Pictures of the Nag Hammadi Library show 4th century books using this exact same style.

The Renaissance Art Large Journal reveals excellent quality. It uses a 100% cotton acid-free paper called Arches Text Wove. The paper is very coarse but writes very well with a medium tipped fountain pen. Each of the six codices, the sets of folded sheets, is bound using waxed string through the soft leather cover. A woven string wraps three times around the book’s body to close it. Anyone choosing to purchase this journal must get it in the hand-sewn gift pouch.

The Renaissance Art Large Journal may be the best journal in which I’ve ever written. My only problem, an important one at that, is the price. At 39 cents a page, it is nearly five times the cost per page of a Moleskine, already an expensive notebook for most people. Many times I have a hard time writing in a Renaissance Art journal. What nonsense could possibly come out of my thick head that is worth 39 cents a page?

One should get over this mental trap, however. The Renaissance Art Large Journal with its rough Arches Text Wove paper is a pleasure in which to write. If you have the means, I highly recommend it. If eighty bucks for a journal is a bit too much, read on for some better values.

Jenni Bick Italian Distressed Leather Journal
300 Pages
28 Cents Per Page.

I purchased the Handmade Italian Distressed Leather Journal with Deckled Pages from Jenni Bick because I wanted to try a hardbound leather journal in a more traditional 18th century style. This hardback leather journal has excellent style and fine craftsmanship. The spine has three ridges to resemble traditional bookbindings of the 18th century. The paper is a cream colored acid free paper, though not as nice as either the Arches Text Wove of the Renaissance Journal above or of the handmade Amalfi paper found in their more expensive leather journal. Even I have trouble justifying $130 for a blank book.

The style is excellent. The build quality is very strong. I have yet to write in this journal but I plan to as soon as I finish up my current Moleskine. If you are looking for a fine hard-back leatherbound journal, consider this one.

Again, at eighty bucks for 300 pages, this journal isn’t cheap. I can only see writing my most valuable writings in a book that costs this much. However, from a style perspective, there are few nicer books.

The Everyman’s Journal
400 Pages
3 cents Per Page.

I found the Everyman’s Journal linked around by fellow Moleskine enthusiasts and for $12, I figured I’d give it a shot. The Everyman’s Journal is very large. The pages are roughly 8″ by 10″ and there’s 400 of them in the book. It is a thread bound book with canvas covers. The build quality is excellent.

My only problem with this journal are the lined pages. I prefer the freedom of blank pages although it is nice to have the pages already numbered.

If the pages were unlined, I’d give this journal my highest remarks simply for its excellent value and high build quality. If you don’t mind a lined journal and you simply prefer to write instead of ponder and pontificate the justifications for an $85 journal, the Everyman may be for you.

Cachet Classic Black Cover Sketchbook
212 Pages
3 Cents Per Page.

I have not tried this book yet myself, but I felt it important to dig for the best value in blank books. From the look, this journal may be the best overall value for daily writing. At three cents a page you shouldn’t have any problems writing any old thing you wish in them. While the style is very basic, the thread-based binding will help keep the book together for ages. Plain white acid-free pages also help with durability and usefulness.

As a bargain value, I cannot see any reason not to consider this inexpensive blank sketchbook.

Final Thoughts:

I love journals. I love knowing that worlds can be created, characters can be born, and lives can be lived. I love knowing that I can read the thoughts of a writer from centuries earlier and perhaps one day a reader will read my thoughts centuries from now.

The five journals above can all help capture these thoughts and preserve them for decades, centuries, perhaps even a millenia. Some may be very expensive, some may be relatively cheap, but all of them serve the same purpose: capturing our thought for the eyes of the future.

I would recommend any or all of the five above journals depending on your needs. However, two of the five leap ahead of the others. I recommend the Moleskine Plain Pocket Notebook for its value, durability, and utility. I recommend the Renaissance Art Large Journal for more important writings and writing when quality outweighs budget. Both are excellent journals and journals I enjoy using myself.

Above all, remember the one rule of writing, the one instruction that is more important than any lesson any writer can ever learn:


The only way to be a better writer is to write. No journal is worth more than the words they store.

Mike Shea
Moleskinerie Contributor
Visit his blog.

Image: dickblick

This review is double- posted at Moleskinerie.

The New Vanishing Point

Vp”The trim is a bright chrome, which goes well with the barrel color, a very vivid yellow. This is a color that comes quite close to the same shade used on the Parker Mandarin yellow Duofold. In other words, it’s not a soft pastel yellow. Pull this pen out of your pocket and folks will know it! It practically lights up the room.

So, the new VP isn’t a subtle pen. But it is a very practical one, no doubt about that. The ability to go from a closed pen to one ready to write in a split second is almost too good to be true. Push the button on the end of the barrel, and the nib slides out.

Push it again, and the nib is retracted. Safe from drying out. Click, write. Click, don’t write. Click, click, click. It gets hypnotic! If you often find yourself fidgeting with stuff as you sit in meetings, the VP is the perfect pen for you. Of course, your fellow meeting attendees may end up beating you over the head and prying the thing from your fingers… “